Perhaps the most famous residence in the United States, and certainly the most well-known address, the White House is the epicenter of political life in Washington, DC. The more-than-100-year-old home has hosted world leaders, state dinners, Easter egg rolls and more than its fair share of weddings. The home was given several other names in the early days (President’s Palace and Executive Mansion, to name two), before Theodore Roosevelt officially dubbed it the White House in 1901.
The Pennsylvania Avenue address for the White House was selected in 1791 by George Washington, who never actually lived in the house. President John Adams and his wife were the first First Family to move into the house in 1800. During the War of 1812, the British burned the house down, and architect James Hoban – who designed the residence the first go ‘round – was tapped to rebuild it. Over the years, the White House has expanded to include new rooms (including the Oval Office), wings (like the West Wing) and even a bowling alley.
The White House is a must-see for any visitor to the nation’s capital. Tours take visitors through the East Wing, which includes much of the home’s entertaining space. You’ll see, among other rooms, the State Dining Room; the Red, Blue and Green Rooms; and the China Room, which houses historic pieces of china. The tour, which typically takes about 30 minutes, is self-guided with docents in each room.
Tours of the White House are available in advance through your member of Congress. Tours are arranged for groups of 10 or more; smaller groups and families should request to join a tour. Submit a request through your congressional office up to six months in advance and no fewer than 21 days in advance. Visitors who are not U.S. citizens should contact their embassy in DC.
The tours run from 7:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, and 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (excluding federal holidays unless otherwise noted). You will need a government-issued ID to enter the White House on the day of your tour. International visitors must present their passports. The White House firmly restricts items that visitors can take with them during their tour, including cameras, handbags, bookbags, food/drink and strollers. For more information, visit the White House website or call the White House Visitors Center at (202) 456-7041. You can locate your Representative's office by visiting house.gov.
The adjacent White House Visitor Center will reopen September 13, 2014. The visitor center underwent a $12.6 million transformation and is now an interactive and engaging experience for visitors. The new center will also include over 90 White House artifacts--many of which have never been on display before.
The White House is centrally located near a number of major attractions. Since it’s within walking distance of the National Mall, before or after your tour is a great time to see the Washington Monument and other memorials. You’re also near some of the most popular Smithsonian museums, including the American History Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Need a break after walking around the White House? The famous Willard InterContinental Washington is a short walk away. Grab a drink and a snack in the Round Robin Bar or take a seat in the lobby, where legend has it President Ulysses S. Grant coined the term “lobbying” after being hounded by so many activists wanting to talk about legislation.
The White House is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, DC. The best way to reach the White House is via the McPherson Square Metro (on both the Orange and Blue lines). Take the exit marked “White House” and walk down 14th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue.
While tours are held year ‘round, the White House is especially magical around holidays. During the winter holidays, the White House is decked out with beautiful Christmas trees in every room. Book your public tour for December and you’ll get to partake in the holiday cheer. Keep an eye out for the White House gingerbread house in the State Dining Room. Outside on The Ellipse, as part of the Pageant of Peace you can see the official National Christmas Tree and miniature trees from all 50 states, DC and U.S. territories. Each tree’s ornaments are themed and made by representatives from each place (be sure and look for the tree from your home!). The president lights the National Christmas Tree and the National Menorah on the Ellipse in two different ceremonies. The events are free and open to the public, with tickets distributed via an online lottery.
You might also want to get tickets for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. This doesn’t include a tour of the White House, but the event includes an Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn, celebrity guests, even story time from the First Lady. Typically held the Monday after Easter, the White House Easter Egg Roll is free and open to the public. Tickets are distributed via an online lottery.
Visitors can also sign up for White House Spring Garden Tours, which are typically held one weekend in April. The tour includes views of the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Rose Garden, the Children's Garden and the South Lawn of the White House.